549.20 PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
Subdivision 1. Standard.
(a) Punitive damages shall be allowed in civil actions only upon
clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the
rights or safety of others.
(b) A defendant has acted with deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others if the
defendant has knowledge of facts or intentionally disregards facts that create a high probability
of injury to the rights or safety of others and:
(1) deliberately proceeds to act in conscious or intentional disregard of the high degree of
probability of injury to the rights or safety of others; or
(2) deliberately proceeds to act with indifference to the high probability of injury to the
rights or safety of others.
Subd. 2. Master and principal.
Punitive damages can properly be awarded against a master
or principal because of an act done by an agent only if:
(a) the principal authorized the doing and the manner of the act;
(b) the agent was unfit and the principal deliberately disregarded a high probability that
the agent was unfit;
(c) the agent was employed in a managerial capacity with authority to establish policy and
make planning level decisions for the principal and was acting in the scope of that employment; or
(d) the principal or a managerial agent of the principal, described in clause (c), ratified or
approved the act while knowing of its character and probable consequences.
Subd. 3. Factors.
Any award of punitive damages shall be measured by those factors which
justly bear upon the purpose of punitive damages, including the seriousness of hazard to the public
arising from the defendant's misconduct, the profitability of the misconduct to the defendant, the
duration of the misconduct and any concealment of it, the degree of the defendant's awareness
of the hazard and of its excessiveness, the attitude and conduct of the defendant upon discovery
of the misconduct, the number and level of employees involved in causing or concealing the
misconduct, the financial condition of the defendant, and the total effect of other punishment
likely to be imposed upon the defendant as a result of the misconduct, including compensatory
and punitive damage awards to the plaintiff and other similarly situated persons, and the severity
of any criminal penalty to which the defendant may be subject.
Subd. 4. Separate proceeding.
In a civil action in which punitive damages are sought,
the trier of fact shall, if requested by any of the parties, first determine whether compensatory
damages are to be awarded. Evidence of the financial condition of the defendant and other
evidence relevant only to punitive damages is not admissible in that proceeding. After a
determination has been made, the trier of fact shall, in a separate proceeding, determine whether
and in what amount punitive damages will be awarded.
Subd. 5. Judicial review.
The court shall specifically review the punitive damages award
in light of the factors set forth in subdivision 3 and shall make specific findings with respect to
them. The appellate court, if any, also shall review the award in light of the factors set forth in
that subdivision. Nothing in this section may be construed to restrict either court's authority
to limit punitive damages.
History: 1978 c 738 s 4; 1986 c 444; 1990 c 555 s 15-18